Obama War Powers – Host Update Partial Transcript
The Libyan War was also addressed this week on Law and Disorder Radio (began broadcasting at 9:00 am EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week). Attorneys and hosts Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) discussed Libya and other topics during the opening of the show. And, FYI, Michael Ratner and Margaret Ratner Kunstler are the authors of the new book Hell No, Your Right To Dissent. Also Michael Ratner and Heidi Boghosian read from the column that Michael Ratner and Margaret Ratner Kunstler have written (The Progressive) about the current war on protest and dissent in the US. Excerpt:
Michael S. Smith: Michael, Heidi, there’s been a lot of ink spilled over Obama overstepping legal authority with the war in Libya. And Michael, you’ve litigated this question on the War Powers Act. What’s your take on it?
Michael Ratner: We should first say that, as hosts, we’re against this war to begin with, apart from the legality, that this is just another US imperialistic war in the Middle East. I mean, whatever we think about that. But, in addition, what’s come out lately is that it’s flatly illegal and the administration is fighting an illegal war. I wrote an op-ed on this way back at the end of March that this was an unconstitutional war because it was attacking another country and under the Constitution you have to get the consent of Congress. He didn’t. Since then, of course, the War Powers Resolution has clicked in. That’s the resolution that was passed in the wake of the Vietnam War. And it was passed for a particular reason: Congress was afraid that presidents would continue to go to war without their consent and so they built an automatic trigger into the War Powers Resoultion saying that 60 days after the president initiated a war, for whatever reason, whatever basis, if it didn’t have explicit Congressional consent, the troops had to automatically be withdrawn. I say that again: automatically be withdrawn within 30 days after the 60-day time clock expires. So that’s 90 days. There shouldn’t be any attack on Libya going on that the United States is involved in at all — not involved in coordination, not involved in helping with the radar, not involved in helping send its own missiles — which it’s still doing, not involved in bombing — which it’s still doing. So the 90 days are over. The war started over 90 days ago. And there’s now been a big debate in the administration with Obama saying, ‘I’m not violating the War Powers Resolution. There’s no hostilities. We haven’t entered into hostilities.’ I mean, it doesn’t pass the straight-face test. I mean, it’s ridiculous. It’s a total lie. And what’s sad about it, of course, is that he got advice from the administration official lawyers at the Office of Legal Counsel —
Michael S. Smith: And the Pentagon.
Michael Ratner: And the Pentagon which — the OLC actually is authoritative on the law with the president. Yes, he can override it, but it’s authoritative. Very rarely over-ridden. Then he went to some other people at the State Dept and elsewhere — including Harold Koh — who I used to work with very closely. And they give him the opposite opinion. They said, ‘Oh, no. There’s no violation of the War Powers Resoultion here.’ And Obama, to the American people, with a straight face, has the nerve to say, “We’re not violating the War Powers Resolution.” So now you see them scrambling around in Congress — you know, [Dennis] Kuccinich and some Republicans — saying ‘let’s cut off all the funding for this war.’ They never actually funded the war. That’s another interesting point. Obama took the money from some raw defense dept budget. He didn’t even use specific funding for the war.
Michael S. Smith: That’s utterly unconstitutional. The Constitution [says the Congress] is supposed to have the power of purse and since war is so important they’re supposed to fund them or not fund them.
Michael Ratner: Right and I was asked this morning, about how do you compare Obama and Bush on the war? Well whatever you thought of the resolution authorizing — ‘authorizing’ — the war in Afghanistan or the war in Iraq, there was at least resolutions. I mean there isn’t one for Libya. And now you see the great scene is to see [John] Kerry, our former presidential candidate who, you’ll recall, when he ran for president saluted the Democratic Convention saying, “Reporting for duty” to show that even though he was against the Vietnam War after the fact, that he was still a figher. Well he proved he’s still a fighter. He’s now joined by [John] McCain at the hip to say, ‘Now let’s pass a resolution authorizing the war.’ So here you go, the president does an unconstitutional war, he violates the War Powers Resolution and then, of course, exactly what the problem was in Vietnam, you’re seeing with a war going on, Congress is saying, ‘Well we can’t abandon our troops in the field, we can’t abandon our troops in the air, our credibility is at stake if we abandon NATO. The same BS we’ve heard forever. So underneath it, and it’s the only analysis that counts, is this is one of a half-dozen imperial wars the US is fighting. And, as someone once said to me, “If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” In the US, the world looks like a bunch of nails that it can just hit around when it gets into a problem.
Michael S. Smith: I think the other point is whether it’s Bush or whether it’s Obama, whether it’s a Republican, whether it’s a Democrat, that certain necessities of empire that these guys follow regardless of what party they’re in or what promises they make when they’re running for office.
Michael Ratner: I think that’s right. I mean, you always tell me about there’s two capitalist parties —
Michael S. Smith: One party with two wings.
Michael Ratner: Right, so this is, you know, we have one War Party really, the question is are there even two wings?
We’ll stop there but I do love what Ratner says next.